Los Angeles Authorities' Counterfeit Crusade

LAPD and U.S. Customs are fighting to try to stop a tidal wave of illegal imports.
8:23 | 10/22/13

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Transcript for Los Angeles Authorities' Counterfeit Crusade
When it comes to pricey handbags, most everyone is looking for a really good deal. But sometimes the reason that what looks like designer bags are so cheap is that they are knock offs. David wright joins law enforcement on the front lines on the fight against fakes. At a rooftop police parking lot in downtown la. This is going to be a complicated case. Final briefing for a joint task force of the fbi and the lapd. Questions and donuts are finished. And the officers mount up. Okay? Roger. We're on our way. Soon they will be racing up the stairs of a nearby building. Police department, open up the door. Or I'm kicking it down. These are officers with the lapd's vice squad searching for something far more profitable than drugs. Abc news, okay if we come in? Counterfeit goods. Lots of brand names, too? A wall covered here. All of it fake. Gucci -- this detective has been on the counterfeit beat more than a dozen years. There is more money made from this stuff than narcotics. An average of $500 billion a year. He does busts like this 30 to 35 times a year. A couple a month? Yeah. Counterfeit goods from luxury HANDBAGS TO DVDs ARE A HUGE Problem. Criminals steal copy righted material every year. While that estimate may be grossly inflated, the losses to big brand names to big enough to make copy right enforcement a huge priority for the customs service. Front lines in that fight are here, the port of los angeles and long beach. The biggest in the us of a. More goods come through los angeles than all other major american ports combined. We are the largest sea port by far. That's because this is the first stop for almost everything the u.S. Imports from china, japan, and korea. That's a lot of stuff. On average, a container arrives here every six seconds. Never one at a time. Always on huge vessels like this one. Nightline embedded with u.S. Customs and border protection to see how they lead the effort to police counterfeit goods with the tsunami of goods coming in every day, a significant challenge to find contraband. Feels like it will literally be looking for a needle in a hay stack. Before this vessel set sail from china, a manifest describing the contents of each container arrives here. It is ken price's job to search for the needle before the hay stack gets here. I look at container freight coming into the u.S. To make sure it is what they say it is. After 20 years on the job, he has a good eye for things that are out of the ordinary just on the paper work. It just doesn't make sense so I want to see what's in there. All of which takes place days, even weeks before the ship ties off. It has to be that way. If there is simply too much to search. Today as we board this vessel, the custom's officers have a pretty good idea where to look. As immigration clears the captain and crew. I'm from south korea. The officers are already doing a preliminary search. They take their time. A ship like this will take days to unload. The most urgent priorities, things that might pose a health or safety threat. Radio active material for one. The scanners indicate the presence of radiation on this truck. So it will have to go through a secondary inspection. In this case, thankfully, apparently not radiation that poses any threat. This is telling us this is natural radiation. It's not a dangerous type of radiation that we should be worried about. Anything flagged based on the manifest goes to an rpm scanner, short for radiation porthole monitor, like an x-ray device. We are looking for drugs and weapons. We are only allowed to show you part of this process. This is where I get all of the readings. The customs department requested that we keep some procedures to ourselves for security reasons. If the container is in anyway suspicious, customs officers open it on the spot. What does the manifest say? Sure enough, shoes. The goods that are impounded for secondary inspection end up here, in a warehouse. We have a suspected counterfeit handbag. We see a shipment of fake hermes bags. 16,000 of them. When the officers go through, they see the record was listed as a home and garden store but the commodity was manifested as handbags but that didn't add up. If they were real the shipment would be worth more than $210 million. On the black market the fakes will fetch 300,000. And chances are, whoever this was addressed to is going to say I don't know anything about it? If they are smart I would imagine that is what they will say. They would wash their hands completely of it. The customs take any suggestion that this is a victimless crime or that through enforcement efforts like this, the u.S. Government is helping to prop up the artificially high price of luxury goods targeted by the knock offs. They insist it is not just the makers of 4,000$4,000 bags that are harmed. It will finance some other illicit activity like terrorism, trafficking of drugs or something. This is a criminal's atm machine? These fake bags? Yes. It's the same as importing drugs or people. It's not just luxury goods that get knocked off. Is this real or fake? It's both. This is general council for beach body, makers of 9 p 90 x insanity and more. For every real set of workout videos on the desk, there is a fake set that is basically indistinguishable. The company has several full-time employees whose only job is to search constantly online looking for deals on beach body products that are too good to be true. How big a problem is this for you? Huge for piracy. It costs us up to $75 million a year. That's 10% of the company's revenues. Money that doesn't go to new products, employees or investors. The back of the lapd bus, the 24-year-old guy who runs this back alley shop pleads for leniency. I am doing this for my family. If convicted he will likely be deported for a second time. I'm not going to see my family or baby girl. But the detective suspects he will eventually make his way back. From a law enforcement standpoint, is this a losing battle? We won't ever say it's a losing battle but every step we make is a gain for us. A raid like this one is just a drop in the bucket. And there is an ocean of illegal goods to police. Something to think about next time you see a vendor hawking

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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